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Oxbow Is Barre-Bound: Olympians Oust Richford

  • Oxbow teammates Mikayla Hodge, left, Cassie Hutchinson (10) and Sabrina French (23) block Richmond's Gabby Coons from reaching the basket during their Vermont Division III girls basketball quarterfinal in Bradford, Vt., on Feb. 22, 2014. <br/>Valley News - Jennifer Hauck

    Oxbow teammates Mikayla Hodge, left, Cassie Hutchinson (10) and Sabrina French (23) block Richmond's Gabby Coons from reaching the basket during their Vermont Division III girls basketball quarterfinal in Bradford, Vt., on Feb. 22, 2014.
    Valley News - Jennifer Hauck Purchase photo reprints »

  • With players cheering behind him, Oxbow Union High School girls basketball coach Barry Emerson calls out to his team seconds before the end of the Olympians' 56-49 win over Richford in a Vermont Division III quarterfinal in Bradford, Vt., on Feb. 22, 2014. <br/>Valley News - Jennifer Hauck

    With players cheering behind him, Oxbow Union High School girls basketball coach Barry Emerson calls out to his team seconds before the end of the Olympians' 56-49 win over Richford in a Vermont Division III quarterfinal in Bradford, Vt., on Feb. 22, 2014.
    Valley News - Jennifer Hauck Purchase photo reprints »

  • Oxbow's Cassie Hutchinson, second from right, is fouled while shooting between Richford's Morgan McAllister, center, and Sadie Fuller, right, during the Olympians' Vermont Division III girls basketball quarterfinal win in Bradford, Vt., on Feb. 22, 2014. <br/>Valley News - Jennifer Hauck

    Oxbow's Cassie Hutchinson, second from right, is fouled while shooting between Richford's Morgan McAllister, center, and Sadie Fuller, right, during the Olympians' Vermont Division III girls basketball quarterfinal win in Bradford, Vt., on Feb. 22, 2014.
    Valley News - Jennifer Hauck Purchase photo reprints »

  • Oxbow's Morgan Brill (22) looks for options during the Olympians' 56-49 win over Richford in a Vermont Division III girls basketball quarterfinal in Bradford, Vt., on Feb. 22, 2014. <br/>Valley News - Jennifer Hauck

    Oxbow's Morgan Brill (22) looks for options during the Olympians' 56-49 win over Richford in a Vermont Division III girls basketball quarterfinal in Bradford, Vt., on Feb. 22, 2014.
    Valley News - Jennifer Hauck Purchase photo reprints »

  • Oxbow teammates Mikayla Hodge, left, Cassie Hutchinson (10) and Sabrina French (23) block Richmond's Gabby Coons from reaching the basket during their Vermont Division III girls basketball quarterfinal in Bradford, Vt., on Feb. 22, 2014. <br/>Valley News - Jennifer Hauck
  • With players cheering behind him, Oxbow Union High School girls basketball coach Barry Emerson calls out to his team seconds before the end of the Olympians' 56-49 win over Richford in a Vermont Division III quarterfinal in Bradford, Vt., on Feb. 22, 2014. <br/>Valley News - Jennifer Hauck
  • Oxbow's Cassie Hutchinson, second from right, is fouled while shooting between Richford's Morgan McAllister, center, and Sadie Fuller, right, during the Olympians' Vermont Division III girls basketball quarterfinal win in Bradford, Vt., on Feb. 22, 2014. <br/>Valley News - Jennifer Hauck
  • Oxbow's Morgan Brill (22) looks for options during the Olympians' 56-49 win over Richford in a Vermont Division III girls basketball quarterfinal in Bradford, Vt., on Feb. 22, 2014. <br/>Valley News - Jennifer Hauck

Bradford, Vt. — Almost immediately after the girls basketball game Saturday at Oxbow High, a small table was placed under one basket and the Olympians faithful began lining up in celebration. For sale were tickets to Thursday’s Vermont Division III semifinal against undefeated Williamstown, a byproduct of the hosts’ 56-49 triumph over Richford.

Stock the cooler with soda pop and buy an extra packet of beef jerky: Third-seeded Oxbow is headed back at the Barre Auditorium for the third time in four years.

“This group has stepped up and done everything that I could have hoped for,” said coach Barry Emerson, who previously guided the school’s boys team. “It’s my first year coaching girls, so I wasn’t sure what to expect, but they’ve worked so hard and they’re great kids.”

Oxbow’s Mikayla Hodge led the way with 21 points, scoring seven of her team’s 24 points during the fourth quarter. The tallest player on the court, she made eight of 20 field goal attempts and left Richford coach Tim Lyons a believer.

“She got baskets when they absolutely had to have one,” said Lyons, whose sixth-seeded team finished the season 14-7. “She’s a heck of a player. When we doubled her, she found (Sabrina French).”

Hodge also had an impact working the front of Oxbow’s press. The senior’s height and long limbs gave the Rockets repeated difficulties inbounding the ball under their hoop.

“We’ve pressed a lot this year,” Emerson said. “They did a good job adjusting and getting the ball to the middle, but that constant pressure takes a toll on you. We took it off for about a minute in the second quarter, just to see how it would go. It didn’t go too well, so we put it back on.”

French and Lauren Tomlinson each had five points, while Dahlia Klarich had 11 and Cassie Hutchinson had 10. Richford’s rugged forward duo of Gabby Coons and Hannah Gleason combined for 24 points, causing inside trouble for Oxbow (18-3) on both ends of the court.

“They’re one of the bigger teams we’ve seen,” Emerson said. “In our league, U-32 is the only team with that kind of size. The Coons kid is a lot quicker than she looks. When she got the ball in the post, she made us pay.”

Oxbow jumped to a 6-0 lead and led 15-12 after a quarter, but the second stanza didn’t go well. The Olympians were outscored 14-6, committed five turnovers to Richford’s one and were down by seven points a minute before halftime.

Lyons said he wasn’t surprised that his team couldn’t extend its lead.

“It’s tough to pull away when the other team has someone like Mikayla,” he said. “ Every time we got on a run, she would get a basket or force a turnover.”

The latter were a real problem for the visitors as the second half wore on. Richford committed only four turnovers during the first half but 11 during the second. Meanwhile, Oxbow coughed the ball up seven times before intermission but only four times after it.

Oxbow trailed, 37-32, after three quarters, but used a Malaina Wright basket and a Klarich 3-pointer to forge a 37-37 tie 27 seconds into the final period. The Olympians regained the lead at 41-39 a minute later, but fell behind, 49-46, with 4 minutes, 38 seconds showing on the clock.

The rest of the game belonged to Oxbow, however. Hutchinson sank a shot, followed by two successful free throws from Hodge for a 50-49 lead. The Olympians made seven of eight from the charity stripe during the final three minutes and 11 of 16 during the second half.

Next up is Williamstown (21-0), a team that scored 70 or more points 15 times during the regular season. The Blue Devils lost last year’s division title game by four points, while Oxbow won the 2012 championship match by three.

“They’re incredible,” Emerson said of Williamstown, which he watched once this winter. “They’re quick and they put a lot of pressure on teams. It will be an interesting matchup, that’s for sure.”

Get your tickets before they’re gone.

Tris Wykes can be reached at twykes@vnews.com or 603-727-3227.